Specialised bike paths aimed at commuters might be expensive but they can earn back their cost three times over, according to a cost-benefit analysis published in economics magazine ESB.
Hundreds of kilometres of dedicated ‘bike highways’ which often link towns together and are closed to all other forms of transport, have been built in the Netherlands in recent years.
However, the ambition to cover the country in a bike highway network is being tempered because of the cost and the lack of insight into other benefits, the magazine said.
Now economists have researched the impact of bike highways and found that not only do they improve the comfort and safety of cyclists, they can encourage others to switch from cars to bikes as well.
The research focused on a 14.4 kilometre stretch of road between Hellevoetsluis and Spijkenisse and calculated what impact a dedicated bike highway would have instead.
‘Building it and maintenance would cost €5.7m but the benefits to society would reach €15.5m, so you would earn the investment back in five years,’ Ernst Bos of Wageningen Economic Research told the Volkskrant.
The new bike route would cut journey times because average speeds would be 5kph faster, the researchers said.
They also put a financial value on comfort and safety and the enjoyment of nature. In addition, if just 1.4% of motorists decided to cycle instead, car numbers on the same road would be cut by 1,056.
The new government has allocated €100m to boost the number of dedicated bike lanes.